A study of the buddhist stone reliefs of Mt. Hiko and the influence of shugendo in the Kyushu Region

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Shugendo, which prospered during Japan's Middle Ages, valued ascetic practices and fused mountain worship with Taoism, Shinto, Buddhism, Animism, astronomy, and medicine. However, since it was transmitted via oral tradition from one generation to the next, limited evidence can be found. Therefore, this essay analyzes 3D imaging data of stone reliefs found at Mt. Hiko, located in the Kyushu region of Japan, to discern whether the carvings depict certain deities and how the Sanskrit characters found in the moon circles represent Shugendo thinking. In addition, it examines how the influence of Shugendo art spread throughout the Kyushu region, Kiyomizu (Kagoshima Prefecture), and Aoki (Kumamoto Prefecture) as well as reassesses its cultural significance. With regard to the former, the results show that a relief of a seated Amitabha was engraved between two other deities: the Mahaasthaamapraapta and Avalokiteśvara. Concerning the latter, the findings reveal that these were the locations of Amitabha worship by the esoteric Tendai sect, which revered "the water" (rivers) and represented an association among Mt. Hiko, Kumano, and Aoki.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)459-489
Number of pages31
JournalReligion and the Arts
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2017


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Religious studies
  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts
  • History
  • Cultural Studies

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